Introducing the 2017 Workplace Learning Report: Top Trends & Challenges Among L&D Leaders

February 7, 2017

Our first Workforce Learning Report reveals the biggest challenges facing L&D leaders across North America.

Unlocking the full potential of talent is the top priority for organizations across the globe. Today’s L&D professionals must navigate an increasingly complex array of technologies – and audiences – to retain, engage and inspire talent in order to ultimately drive business outcomes.

To learn more about the state of L&D, we checked in with over 500 learning pros from the U.S. and Canada about the trends and challenges they’re facing. Their insights form the basis of our first annual 2017 Workplace Learning Report.

The report reveals top challenges, and a multiplicity of approaches to solving them. We uncovered universal concern about skills gaps, at a time when the average shelf-life of skills is under five years. Executives agree that L&D programs can help to close the gap but the “the ROI of learning” is not a simple science, and most L&D pros struggle to prove the value of investments in learning and development. Here’s a closer look at the state of workplace learning, from the professionals on the front lines.

A Moving Target?

L&D pros are united: there’s no gold standard for corporate training. From structure to content to delivery method, learning and development looks different just about everywhere:

  • 34% of survey respondents manage programs that are decentralized across HR, IT, sales and finance departments, which makes it challenging for learning execs to monitor programs and establish best practices.

  • While 44% of smaller organizations (fewer than 1,000 employees) focus training on technical skills development, only 35% of larger organizations do so. Larger employers tend to prioritize soft skills (58% to 51%).

  • L&D pros are a self-reflective bunch. Few feel like they’ve cracked the code of corporate training. Less than a quarter of the group was willing to recommend their own programs to peers.

Making the Case from the Bottom Up

The majority of our survey respondents (80%) say that developing employees is top-of-mind for the executive team. But only about a quarter of L&D pros (26%) expect their budgets to increase in 2017. Why the disparity? CEOs need to see that training generates both business impact and ROI, and demonstrating those results has proven to be a challenge.

  • Only 8% of CEOs report that they see the business impact of L&D programs, and just 4% see the ROI.

  • As a result, many learning execs are excluded from the leadership bench: just 60% of survey respondents say they have a “seat at the table” with the C-suite.

  • All eyes are on L&D to develop more leaders and managers, with 52% of respondents claiming “Leadership” is the most important skill to train for.

...And the top down

Nearly half of our respondents (46%) cite the challenge of getting employees to make time for learning and development. One reason for this challenge may be that many companies are still trying to reach today’s learners with yesterday’s tactics.

  • The most common method for training is still the traditional in-person, classroom model – 78% of pros said it was their most commonly used strategy.

  • This doesn’t always resonate with employees: 47% say that they engage in learning outside of work hours - and most (52%) prefer to be able to access the information they need whenever they need it.

  • But new models are emerging as a critical complement to in-person training: 7 out of 10 organizations report that they are incorporating video-based online training.

So what will it take for learning and development professionals to tackle these challenges in 2017? According to Dr. Britt Andreatta and Dr. Todd Dewett, industry leaders and top LinkedIn Learning authors, it’s all about culture.

A culture of learning starts with identifying employees’ real-world needs, and peeling back the layers to understand root causes of workplace challenges. To address specific challenges, give employees on-demand access to modern, self-directed learning programs. And the more that L&D pros create value for employees, the easier it will be to get executive buy-in to make learning a key part of corporate strategy.

Click here to download our 2017 Workplace Learning Report today, for free.